NICE spends more on spin than tests on new treatments

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by tansy, Sep 10, 2008.

  1. tansy

    tansy New Member

    Drug watchdog NICE 'spends more on 'spin' than tests on new treatments'
    By Ian Drury and Jenny Hope
    Last updated at 8:49 AM on 10th September 2008

    Claims: Shadow health minister Mark Simmonds said NICE spends more on 'spin' than on evaluating new drugs

    The health rationing watchdog has come under attack for spending more money on spin than on evaluating drugs which could save patients' lives.

    The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which has been widely criticised for banning drugs from NHS use as too expensive, squandered £4.5million on 'communications' last year.

    This was £1.1million more than the £3.4million the controversial organisation spent on assessing new medicines.

    The money forked out on press officers, marketing executives and consultants included £25,000 on top public relations firm Weber Shandwick to defend NICE's ban on Alzheimer's drugs.

    It could have paid for 5,000 Alzheimer's sufferers to get £2.50-a-day drugs for a year. Alternatively it would have funded nearly 200 patients with advanced kidney cancer to have a drug for 12 months that would double their life expectancy.

    Tens of thousands of people across the country are waiting for NICE to assess drugs that could extend their lives or alleviate conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and thinning bones.

    MPs, patients groups and medical organisations branded the amount spent on communications as a 'scandalous waste of money'.

    Myeloma sufferer Jacky Pickles, one of the 'Velcade Three' - three mothers who launched a campaign after being denied anti-cancer drugs - said: 'It is disgraceful that money which could provide drugs that make the difference between someone living and dying is being spent on communications.'

    Mrs Pickles, 46, of Keighley, West Yorkshire, added: 'NICE should either use the money to improve their evaluation process, or give it back to the NHS to spend on people who are ill.'

    Shadow Health Minister Mark Simmonds, who uncovered the budget breakdown tucked away in NICE's annual report, said: 'These figures typify New Labour's approach to Britain's health service.

    Cancer sufferer Jacky Pickles says it is 'disgraceful' that so much money is spent on communications

    'Thousands of patients across the country who are still waiting for NICE to evaluate new medicines will rightly be asking why Labour insists on spending more on spin than on speeding up people's access to lifesaving drugs.'

    NICE has an annual budget of £34.4million, and spends £1 in every £8 on communications. In contrast, £1 in every £10 is spent on evaluating new drugs.

    The rest is spent on such things as salaries - NICE's annual report for 2006/07 revealed that wages accounted for almost 37 per cent of the budget - accommodation (eight per cent) and external contracts. Almost 300 full-time staff are employed in London and Manchester.

    The watchdog looks at whether drugs are cost-effective for the NHS, with the annual cost threshold set between £20,000-£30,000, above which they are considered too expensive.

    The 'value-for-money' calculation, which does not take into account factors such as severity of a disease, means British patients are denied drugs that are freely available abroad.

    NICE was condemned recently for handing a 'death sentence' to 1,700 patients with advanced kidney disease each year who will be deprived of four life-extending drugs.

    One, Sutent, which costs around £24,000 a year, can double the life expectancy of patients to 28 months.

    NICE has also been accused of 'dithering' over the evaluation process. It has taken several years for the watchdog to approve the use of some drugs. Chief executive Andrew Dillon was forced to make a grovelling apology last month for a two-year delay in approving a new treatment for blindness during which time many Britons lost their sight.

    Michael Summers, vice-chairman of the Patients Association, said spending £4.5million on communications was 'immoral and indefensible'.

    He said: 'If NICE has reached the situation where it is so unpopular that it has to spend money improving its image, maybe it should be less dilatory and improve its performance.'

    Nick Rijke, of the National Osteoporosis Society, said: 'I would have thought that an organisation that spends so much on communicating would be rather better at listening to the views of clinical experts and patient societies.'

    NICE said the majority of its communications budget was spent informing doctors about which drugs had been approved and new guidelines for treatments, although it admitted that it had a 'small' marketing budget.

    Mr Dillon said: 'The actual cost of assessing new drugs for the NHS includes money spent on NICE's behalf by the Department of Health. When you add them together, the total cost of the NICE technology appraisal programme far outstrips the cost of NICE communications.'

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  2. victoria

    victoria New Member

    I can only think that they think it's saving the govt.'s money in the end, as those who won't get any treatments will just die and supposedly not cost anything. But of course, the ramifications of that are not true - families reduced to poverty due to loss of wage earners, etc.

    Actually tho they're doing a better job than charities; not that that's saying much I guess ... I've read most charities spend at least 85% or better of their funds on administration, soliciting, etc....... have read some who were verified as only having about 1-2% go towards research. Very few were 'dedicated' to having the gross majority go towards real research & help.

    all the best,

  3. simonedb

    simonedb Member

    and the blockheads??

    sorry to hear about nice....

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